The Official Definition

The official definition of veganism was coined by Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society back in 1944. He said:

“Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.”

This means that vegans do not eat cows, pigs, chicken, fish and other such animals, as well as broths, sauces and gravies made from them. Beyond that, vegans also avoid eating all animal products, such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs and honey. Certain foods like Jell-O contain gelatin, a substance made from ground cow and horse hooves, and vegans avoid these as well, in addition to other animal products like glycerin, whey, and casein which sneak their way into a variety of food products.

When Mr. Watson mentions that vegans exclude animals used for clothing, he means that vegans choose not to wear leather, silk, suede, fur and wool, all fabrics made from animals.

Other forms of animal use and exploitation include circuses, rodeos and zoos, where animals are used for the entertainment of humans at the expense of their personal freedom. Not unexpectedly, vegans choose to avoid these as well.

What's the Difference Between Vegetarian and Vegan?

The definition of vegetarianism has come to mean someone who abstains from eating meat, but who still consumes milk, eggs, and other animal by-products. The term lacto-vegetarian means a vegetarian who drinks milk, while ovo-vegetarian means one who eats eggs. No vegetarian consumes animal flesh, including broths and gravies, and some do not consume gelatin either. Many vegetarians also avoid cheese since it's typically processed with rennet, which is derived from the stomach of calves.

One difference between veganism and vegetarianism lies in the consumption of certain animal products, although the term “strict vegetarian” usually refers to someone who eats an strictly vegan diet. Vegans do not eat milk or eggs or honey; vegetarians often do.

However, the major difference between the two is that veganism is a lifestyle, whereas vegetarianism is a diet. Vegans do not wear animals or use them for entertainment, and seek to avoid using them in their day to day lives. With vegetarianism, one simply does not eat flesh and that's where it ends.

“As Far As Possible and Practical”

It's been pointed out by many inquisitive people how entrenched animal use is in our society. They say, “movie film, golf balls and paint are not vegan, so does that mean you do not watch movies, play golf and paint your house?” The answer is, quite simply, no. The reality is that unless you live in a box (and even then!), It simply is not possible OR practical to avoid all animal products. This does not mean that vegans eat a hamburger when the craving strikes – it means that we understand there's a limit to what we're able to avoid. We do the best we can with the circumstances we're given.

If You're Vegan-Curious, Or Have a Vegan Guest

Nowadays, there are plenty of resources available to assist you in your quest towards an animal-friendly life, including tips on baking delicious goodies, recipes for hearty main-course meals, and lists of animal products you'll want to avoid in the grocery store. However, I'd like to share a few quick tips I've learned for anyone interested in veganism, or anyone who will be cooking for one:

-Margarine is an ingredient that is deceptively non-vegan. You've think margarine = vegetable oil, but there's typically much, much more in the ingredient lists than that, and margarine usually contains lactose or whey powder. However, Becel has recently come out with a vegan line of margarine, and Earth Balance spreads can be found at health food stores (and their ingredient list is far less scary than conventional margarine).

-Check breads, bagels and buns carefully – you'll often find egg, whey and lactose somewhere on the label. There are plenty of bread brands that are vegan, though, so do not fret – you'll find something, even in a regular grocery store.

-Any non-dairy milk can replace dairy milk beautifully in every recipe, and can even be better (like almond milk in cupcakes). However, be careful of a few things: first, you'd be wise to choose unsweetened milk for any savory recipe. Second, not all non-dairy milks are created equal, and some are thinner and less faty than others and may produce a slightly less rich baked good. For example, rice and oat milk tend to be on the thin side, while soy and almond milk are thicker and usually work better in baking.

-These soy cheeses you find in the tofu section of the grocery store? Almost all of those are not vegan, since they contain casein. If you want to use a vegan cheese, you might need to visit your health food store. Opt for a brand like Daiya, which has a mellow flavor and melts really nicely.

-1 tbsp of cornstarch mixed in with 2 tbsp of water can replace an egg in a pinch (only in baking – that might not fry up so nicely).

Summary

The ins and outs of veganism may seem complicated, but only at first. Over time you'll learn which brands are vegan, label-reading will be like second nature, and you will not break a sweat in any grocery store. Like learning anything, it simply takes a little time and patience. The end result – living an animal-friendly life – is definitely worth it!